Blazers splurge stellar start, self-destruct in OKC

The Portland Trail Blazers sought to serve up a healthy plate of revenge to the oklahoma city thunder on Wednesday night, two days after losing to the same team in heartbreaking fashion. Despite an excellent first quarter, that dish never left the kitchen. The Blazers struggled to maintain any type of offensive cohesion for the rest of the night, falling 101-98 at PayCom Center. Portland sits at 2-3 on their current road trip, with one game to play.

While the Blazers’ starting five scored in double figures, no one could eclipse the 20-point mark. Jerami Grant led the team with 17 points, while Shai Gilgeous-Alexander once again put on a show for the Thunder with a game-high 27 points. He outshot the entire Blazers team from the free throw line in the process.

score box

For a quarter-by-quarter breakdown, see our instant summary. The following were the key stories from Wednesday’s action.

Stellar start, sloppy finish

It was largely forgotten by the final whistle, but the Blazers’ game out of the gates swinging to start the night. His offense was characterized by excellent and determined ball movement, with all five players touching the ball on the opening possession, resulting in Grant’s corner 3-pointer. The team assisted on 11 of their 13 field goals in the frame, with Josh Hart leading with nine early points. Defensively, they forced six OKC turnovers, stealing the ball four times to create fast-break opportunities.

Leading 32-22 after the first, the team failed to score at least 25 points in each of the last three quarters. To make matters worse, the Thunder caught fire beyond the arc in the third quarter, after going just 2-9 in the first half. Turnovers were also a major problem, particularly down the stretch. Despite everything, the game was close at all times. However, the Blazers were unable to score after the 2:56 mark of the fourth quarter, as the Thunder ended an 8-0 run. They also gave up two offensive rebounds on a key possession with less than a minute to go, and turned the ball over three times in a two-minute span in the last five minutes.

Damian Lillard, who had his second-lowest point total of the season at 16, missed three shots in the final two minutes. His error on a hotly contested midrange jumper with three seconds remaining nearly sealed the fate of Portland, as they weren’t on bonus yet. 1 down, they had to commit two fouls, leaving just 0.3 seconds left after a pair of free throws from Gilgeous-Alexander, and failed to get a final shot in time.

free throw disparity

Perhaps the biggest story of the game was the disparity at the free throw line between the two teams. The Thunder finished the night 21-25 from the charity strip with Gilgeous-Alexander going 11-13. The Blazers were 6-9 as equipmentand had only two free throw attempts in the entire second half of the game.

Anfernee Simons had a particularly difficult time avoiding the whistle, committing her fourth personal foul with 7:18 remaining in the third quarter. Her third foul, committed just seconds earlier, came on a highly questionable offensive foul call. His fifth foul came in the final minute of the frame, forcing him to sit out much of the fourth quarter as the Blazers struggled to score.

Silver lining

There were few positive takeaways from the game, but the bench unit deserves a tip of the cap for its performance. Drew Eubanks had four offensive rebounds in the first half and also had three steals on the night. Shaedon Sharpe had a dynamic opening game, scoring eight points in the first quarter, while Trendon Watford showcased his offensive versatility with a pair of impressive drives to the rim and two offensive rebounds of his own. Keon Johnson hit a big 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, springing into action with Simons in foul trouble and Justise Winslow spraining her ankle late in the third.

Also, Jusuf Nurkic returned from a one-game absence and had an efficient shooting performance of 5-7. He had a terrific run in the paint early in the second quarter against a small OKC lineup. However, the Thunder turned to the bigger Mike Muscala to start the second half in place of the ultra-thin Aleksej Pokusevski, and also began to duplicate him at several of his positions, limiting his effectiveness at blocking.

Until next time

The Blazers (17-15) wrap up their road trip in the Mile High City on Friday night against the denver nuggets. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 pm (Pacific Time) from Ball Arena.

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